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September 03, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama on Marine Fisheries

An Exclusive Sport Fishing Interview

Sport Fishing: A debate that's raged for years over "no-take" marine protected areas (where no fishing or extractive use is permitted) pairs off user groups, including sport fishermen, against those environmental interests insisting that closing off large areas of the ocean is the only way to save it and its resources. Recreational-fishing interests generally feel that smart fisheries regulations, properly enforced, can obviate for anglers most such closed areas. What position would an Obama administration take on this issue and why?

Obama: My administration would place the emphasis in fishery management where it belongs: in ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of stocks through the use of effective and appropriate conservation measures. Such an approach would not provide a preference for one management tool, such as a marine reserve, over another. Given sufficient management controls and data, a fishery can meet conservation objectives through a variety of catch controls and habitat-protection measures, including gear restrictions, bag limits or closures. In some cases, additional conservation measures may need to be taken to ensure a positive recreational marine-fishing experience for future generations of Americans. Recreational fishermen have not shirked from embracing such measures when needed to achieve long-term stock sustainability, as long as measures are matched to the problem. While marine reserves may be an effective means of achieving important goals, their use and design must be based on an assessment of impacts and balanced by a strong respect for the ability of recreational anglers to practice their sport. In my view, we need to be open to the use of a variety of innovative conservation tools and be prepared to use them if the science justifies their establishment, and if it has been determined that less-restrictive options will not achieve critical goals like rebuilding fish stocks. The decision to establish marine reserves should be made as a result of a transparent, science-based process and be the least intrusive possible to get the job done. Such a process should include outreach to the sport-fishing community to explain both the scientific basis for the action and the expected  conservation benefits to future fishing generations if it is to gain the community's active support.